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Film / The Ritual

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The Ritual is a 2017 British horror film starring Rafe Spall and directed by David Bruckner. It is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Adam Nevill, and is best described as the love child of The Blair Witch Project and The Wicker Man (1973).

Former college friends Luke, Phil, Hutch, and Dom go backpacking in the Swedish wilderness to honor Robert, who was killed in a liquor store robbery. However, after Dom sprains his leg, the four decide to take a shortcut through the woods. When they discover an elk hanging gutted from a tree, they begin to believe there may be more than bears in this forest…

This film provides examples of:

  • Age Without Youth: The creature grants its followers an extended life and immortality, but they still continue to age, with the living mummified bodies kept in the small room Luke stumbles upon apparently being the oldest/original worshippers.
  • All There in the Manual: According to director David Bruckner, the creature is female, and named Moder in the book. But in the film, the pagans dare not speak her name.
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  • Animalistic Abomination: The thing that lives in the woods possesses a shape not unlike a gigantic elk. However, she also has what appears to be a headless human torso for a skull with human arms coming from where its legs would be, antlers sprouting form where its arms would be and a vaguely human-like head hidden in the shadows within a shroud where the torso's crouch is. When she rises on her hindlegs, she also reveals a second pair of human-like hands near her hips. She can also make people hallucinate just by being in the area.
  • Asshole Victim: It's hard to feel any sympathy for the villagers as they get slaughtered by the monster, given that they've been sacrificing people to it in exchange for immortality, and it's implied that they've been doing this for years.
  • Bears Are Bad News: When the group comes across an elk impaled on a tree, they speculate that a bear did it, but one of them points out that bears don't do that sort of thing.
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  • Bad Boss: Even the creature’s own followers aren’t safe from its wrath when they fail to protect the mummified bodies of the older followers.
  • Big Bad: Moder, the creature the murder cult worships.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The creature's name Moder means "mother" in several Scandanavian languages. Interestingly, the spelling would indicate the modern pronunciation, despite the creature being described as ancient. This might be because the Old Norse pronunciation, móðir, is closer to the English "mother".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Luke manages to get out of the forest alive and burns down the village sacrificing people to the monster for good measure. However, he's the only one who made it out alive due to Phil, Hutch and Dom having been killed by the monster. The monster is also still very much alive. Considering that the trek was due to honouring their friend Robert, who was killed in a liquor robbery that Luke feels utter guilt for, he's likely feeling much worse by the end.
  • Black Speech: Appropriate for the bastard child of an Elder God.
  • Dead Guy on Display: The creature's victims have been impaled on tree branches, and the villagers don't take their sacrifices down, leaving them hanging from the branches (presumably out of fear of angering the creature).
  • Don't Go in the Woods: The whole premise of the film.
  • Downer Beginning: Robert is killed within the first few minutes, which is what kicks off the plot of the film.
  • Due to the Dead: The lads choose to go to Sweden specifically it's because what their dead friend wanted to do, and they build a small memorial to him on top of a mountain.
  • Dwindling Party: One by one, each member of the group dies, until Luke is left as the sole survivor.
  • Event Title
  • Eye Scream: The creature plucks out the eyes of one of the villagers, though whether that's for allowing the mummified worshipers to burn or for daring to look upon Moder is unclear.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Subverted. Dom takes on a brave face after the villagers torture him and he becomes aware he will not survive. Only then to still scream when facing the creature, though it first appearing in the form of his wife Gayle didn't help his fortitude.
  • Fingore: Luke is forced to break his left thumb in order to escape his restraints.
  • Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better: The monster spends most of her time walk on all fours like an animal; however, near the end, she stands bipedally in a distinctly human fashion.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • It's mentioned early on that the group has no idea of the locals' religious practices, and they might very well be pagan. It later turns out that an entire village worships the monster, which is a bastard child of Loki, and they sacrifice people to her.
    • The impaled elk in the tree that the group runs into soon after entering the woods is the first victim of the creature we see, and the creature itself resembles an elk in some ways.
  • Genre Savvy: Upon the group first entering the cabin, one of them says "This is definitely the house we get murdered in."
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Strongly implied with the monster's motivations. After she kills her living congregation for failing to protect the mummified worshipers, she deliberately misses several chances to kill Luke, instead trying to intimidate him into prostrating himself to her glory.
  • Hallucinations: Luke hallucinates seeing the place where Robert died, as well as the people there. This is indicated to be a sign of the creature's presence.
  • He Was Right There All Along: One shot holds on the group as they trek up a hill. The monster blends in with the trees so well that you only notice it once it steps out of view, offering only a brief glimpse of...something. The fact that it happens in broad daylight makes it even worse.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The unearthly sounds Luke hears in the woods before entering the cabin. They were made by the creature.
  • Immortality Immorality: The villagers sacrifice people to the creature in exchange for immortality.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The creature's primary method of killing her victims is to impale them onto tree branches.
  • It Can Think: The creature is clearly intelligent, as she uses hallucinations to disorient and weaken her prey.
  • Join or Die: After Dom is killed, the villagers tell Luke that he will begin a ritual where he must join them by kneeling before the monster, or else be sacrificed to her.
  • Kill It with Fire: Luke burns down a room containing moving mummified corpses, killing the mummified villagers.
  • Kneel Before Zod: The creature demands that its followers kneel before it.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Ostensibly, Word of God says that the creature was inspired by Yhoundeh; The Elk Goddess, purported wife of Nylarthotep., Shub-Niggurath; Black Goat of the woods or some combination of the two.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Played with. The creature can be harmed, as seen when Luke attacks her with an axe at the end of the movie, although the wound doesn't slow her down too much. She also shrugged off a shot from a hunting rifle.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Very little of the creature is shown through the movie, the viewer can only get very small glimpses of something up until the last half an hour or so of the movie, in which it comes in full display.
  • Only Sane Man: Luke, who is strongly against the shortcut. He's also the only member of the group to survive and escape the woods.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: It doesn't get much weirder than the body of a massive stag but with a headless human torso for a head, with antlers for hands, arms for legs, and a black void with glowing eyes at crotch height.
  • Scenery Porn: The film has quite a few gorgeous shots of the Scandinavian landscape. (It was actually filmed in Romania.)
  • Survivor's Guilt: After Luke fails to assist Robert during the robbery, he is plagued by nightmares that stem from his guilt. By the end of the film, he's likely feeling much worse.
  • The "The" Title
  • The Trickster: The creature is this, being able to induce hallucinations of anything that people want (or don't want) to see, which lends some credence to the claim that she really is a child of Loki.


Example of: